T.S. Eliot, Dante, and the European Tradition: An International Symposium
January 19th - 25th , 2008
  Promoted by:
Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation
Palazzo Coppini Via del Giglio, 10
50123 – Florence (Italy)


Author : Dr. Stefano Maria CASELLA


T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound’s poetic homage to Dante
(“Little Gidding” II and Canto 72)

Numberless are the examples of Dante’s ubiquitous influence on, and presence in, Eliot and Pound’s entire “opus” (critical essays, development of personal poetics, single poems and poetry collections, titles and epigraphs, direct quotations and oblique allusions), as one of the fundamental characters of their creative activity is that both poets go back to Dante in the design of their works: Pound in his Cantos (that, however, remain “By no means an orderly Dantescan rising”, as admitted in Canto 74), Eliot in the architecture of, and interrelationships among, his three major poems “The Waste Land”, “Ash-Wednesday”, and “Four Quartets” (even though the Dantescan filigree reveals itself only “a posteriori”).
But I wish to focus the attention on two specific and extremely revealing texts: “Little Gidding” (II) and Canto 72, where Eliot and Pound try the hardest task for a poet: that of deliberately vying with his master, by writing “à la maniére de” Dante himself, in their case. These two poems stand out as the longest and loftiest instances of this (re-)creative challenge, under the lexical, rhythmic, stylistic, thematic, imaginative, ritual and mythical points of view. Furthermore, so different as they are (the former is written in English, the latter, quite exceptionally, in Italian), they elicit a close comparison with their model(s) --mainly Dante, but also Virgil and Homer as regards the ritual, mythical, archetypal, and initiatory aspects are concerned-- and between each other, thus giving evidence of Eliot and Pound’s strenuous and successful effort, and of Dante’s unceasing modernity.

Stefano Maria Casella

(Verona/Italy, Sept. 26, 2007, Eliot’s birthday)

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